Lewis Hamilton may already be starting on the backfoot to Max Verstappen, according to Sky Sports reporter Ted Kravitz, who believes the Dutchman has three things in his favour ahead of the new season. Mercedes’ era of dominance came to a crashing halt last year as Red Bull took charge under the new regulations.
Hamilton failed to win a single race in a season for the first time in his illustrious career and was also pipped by team-mate George Russell in the standings. There was some optimism in the final few races of the year that Mercedes were closing the gap and Toto Wolff made it clear that the team would be doing everything to help them return to the top of the grid once again in 2023.
Red Bull have a budget cap penalty to deal with this year, leading to many predicting a much closer title battle. However, Kravitz has pointed out three reasons why Red Bull should still be the team to beat and believes Verstappen will be practically ‘unbeatable’ to start the year.
“Red Bull will start with the lightweight chassis that they introduced and designed and made we think but never raced towards the end of the year,” he said on Sky Sports. “They will start that as a base, they will have developed that so it will be under weight, and they can ballast it up to meet the weight limit. Benefit one.
“Benefit two, they will have done all the aerodynamic work and design before the restrictions they had on their accepted breach agreement of the cost cap restrictions came in – their penalty for that. So they’ve done all the work before that even comes in. Towards the end of this year and next year it will start to bite.
“Number three, they have the best driver on the grid in terms of form at the moment, even considering Lewis Hamilton. Lewis’ form, we haven’t seen the championship form of Lewis yet because he hasn’t been in a championship since the end of 2021, which we know what happened then.
“Max Verstappen is bang in form, and I think that is the third part of their secret weapon which should make them nigh on unbeatable.”
The teams will get their first chance at learning where they are compared to their rivals this weekend in Bahrain. The three-day pre-season test gets underway on Thursday where teams up and down the grid will get a chance to tack up the mileage and collect more data ahead of next week’s season opener.
While topping the time sheets often grab headlines, teams will be far more focused on producing a vast amount of laps to work out any kinks. Last year saw the issue of porpoising affect several teams up and down the paddock with some able to manage it better than others.